Dechert conflict gifts FFW BHS work as retailers pick over Allders carcass

Four major retail deals are on the shelves, which have provided City lawyers with a much needed boost in M&A work

The sale of Allders’ stores by the collapsed retailer’s joint administrators has turned into a retail frenzy, with several firms securing key instructions to advise the bidders.

Thanks to a conflict on the Allders deal, Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) has landed an instruction to advise BHS, the UK retailer that was acquired by billionaire entrepreneur Philip Green in March 2000, on the purchase of 10 Allders stores.

The mandate to advise Green on the acquisition is a coup for FFW, because after Green bought BHS he decided to farm out virtually all of the retailer’s property work to Dechert.

Before BHS was acquired by Green, FFW advised the retailer on property matters, but now the firm handles a small amount of employment work.

It is understood that Dechert had to turn down Green’s instruction because the US firm’s London arm had already agreed to advise Allders’ joint administrators on property aspects of the deal.

Meanwhile, longstanding FFW client House of Fraser, which was also bidding and which failed to secure any of Allders’ stores, turned to Slaughter and May. Although both firms have a relationship with House of Fraser, the retailer typically instructs Slaughters on deals with a corporate element.

Herbert Smith and Lawrence Graham also secured places on the roster of advisers after securing instructions from Primark and Debenhams respectively.

Primark, which has agreed to buy six Allders stores, turned to Herbert Smith because of the City firm’s longstanding relationship with the retailer’s parent, Associated British Foods.

Meanwhile, Debenhams, which is buying eight stores, instructed Lawrence Graham property partner Catherine Diggle thanks to the firm’s longstanding relationship with the retailer. The relationship, which dates back to the 1970s, is ongoing despite the takeover of Debenhams by CVC Capital Partners and Texas Pacific Group in 2003.

Allders’ joint administrators Alistair Beveridge, Fraser Gray and Andrew Pepper, who are being advised by DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary insolvency partner Simon Neilson-Clarke, are still reviewing options for the remaining 21 stores.

The FFW and Herbert Smith teams are being led by Edward Bannister and Stephen Hancock respectively.